New Delhi: The Pathankot terror strike has once again reinforced centrality of terrorism in Indo-Pak ties and it will be hard for India to treat the relations as normal unless Pakistan addresses the issue effectively, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said on Wednesday.
"Until we are able to address the issue (terrorism) effectively, obviously it is hard for us to say that the relationship is normal. Because this is what puts Pakistan in a different category than our other neighbours," he said during an interaction. However, the Foreign Secretary maintained that given the "challenge" of the relationship with Pakistan, India has "fared well" in keeping the focus firmly on the central issue of terrorism.
"If you see the interactions, I think, one change has been the centrality of addressing the issue of terrorism to dialogue... That was reflected when the two Prime Ministers met in Ufa. It was underlined when the two NSAs met in Bangkok. "If you see the reconstituted dialogue that we have, the comprehensive bilateral dialogue, the salience of terrorism (is there). Because this is not a point of argumentation. It is taking into account about what is happening on the ground," he said.
He was asked about the Modi government's policy towards Pakistan, particularly in the aftermath of the Pathankot attack. Talking about India's ties with neighbours, Jaishankar said "Pakistan, of course, is a category by itself.
"But given the challenge of the relationship we have fared well in keeping the focus firmly on the central issue of terrorism in maintaining an engagement that factors in the complexity of that polity and in enhancing the global understanding of our approach.
"That said, we also look beyond to a more normal relationship featuring economic cooperation and people-to- people ties." The Foreign Secretary said India's quest towards becoming a leading power rests first and foremost on its success in expanding the economy. In that pursuit, the role of diplomacy in attracting foreign capital, technology and best practices is significant, he said. "Persuading key partners that it is in their strategic interest that the Indian economy is strengthened, both qualitatively and quantitatively, is one of the core objectives of our current diplomacy," Jaishankar said.
He said forging an international consensus on a difficult issue like terrorism is a test that still awaits India even if there has been progress in this respect. Observing that focusing diplomacy on domestic development has to be a generational effort, he said major initiatives have been taken to improve India's standing globally. "It is difficult to win friends and influence people - even on global issues - without steady and continuous engagement. Interestingly, since this government has come into office, we have had ministerial level visits to about 130 nations, a level of intensity in our engagement that sends its own message," he said.
Talking about the "neighbourhood first" policy, he said it articulated a comprehensive vision of India's broader neighbourhood that reflected growing capabilities and confidence. "It is posited on the belief that whatever our past, the realisation of shared prosperity can be our goal. To achieve that we will not only have to sharply raise levels of cooperation and connectivity, but also bring to bear a new mindset.
"Where India is concerned, it could itself drive regional cooperation, rather than be driven by it. In fact, we should be pursuing our own goals purposefully, without letting them be overly influenced by the limitations of our partners, or diverted by difficulties of the day," he said.
Jaishankar said a new energy was infused into SAARC which was visible since the Kathmandu Summit of 2014. "When SAARC has worked, we are happy to forge ahead. Where there are difficulties, we are equally open to working plurilaterally or even sub-regionally. The intent is to get the region to be serious about cooperation within. "The degree of attention being devoted to our neighbours today is probably unprecedented," he said, adding level of cordiality in engagement with Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka has gone up significantly.
With Myanmar, he said India has navigated the transition with delicacy and are well poised to engage the incoming government. "Admittedly, in Nepal and Maldives, there have been challenges that arose from their domestic politics. But even here, patience and perseverance are making their impact," he said.
On Afghanistan, he said the country was going through a difficult period and India's reputation for reliability has only been strengthened by the broadening ambit of bilateral cooperation. He said India's ties with the Middle East and major powers like the US, Japan and Russia have improved significantly 10 besides with ASEAN and African continent.